Cruising French Polynesia.
Tahiti Travel Blog› entry 6 of 8 › view all entries
After our 7-minute flight back to Papeete which is perhaps the shortest flight in the world, we took a taxi direct to the pier where the Tahitian Princess was docked. This gorgeous vessel, fully booked for this cruise, will be our home for the next ten days.
We had booked an outside cabin and were very happy with it. Many staterooms on the Tahitian Princess are with balconies, but ourself we thought we would be ok with a large window. Conveniently located mid-ship, Our room #4022 was nicely decorated and had enough space for the two of us. There's enough storage to hang all our clothes and stuff, so we could put our suitcases underneath the bed. A very large mirror made the room even feel more spacious then it actually was. We had a sofa and nighttables on either side of the double bed. Further, there is a desk with another large mirror from table to ceiling which came in very useful. It had two ac plug-ins. There's an electronic safe which is big enough to hold two large cameras + wallets and stuff. The bathroom was rather small but we did'nt expected a larger one on a cruise ship in this cabin-category. However, it was very nice installed with enough shells and storage to put away all our sundries and toiletries. The shower had Gröhe temperature controlable cranes.
The multi-channel TV gives permanent activity information plus has different channels where one can watch the latest movies. The only item we missed in our cabin was a small refrigerator. I use medicine which has to be stored cold so I had to send it to the galley's refrigerators, I had to call room service 3 to 4 times a day to get them delivered which they did very promptly each time I called them.
Apart from the missing refrigerator, we felt very comfortable in our well installed cabin. Although the temperature is adjustable, we did'nt touched it as it was always nice and perfectly cool in our stateroom. I had read comments from people who found the bed a bit hard. We did not had any problem with that.
The pooldeck was equipped with a nice swimming pool with a hot jacuzzi attached on either side. For some people, the pool might have been a bit too deep with its 5'7".
The Tahitian Princess had several bars to choose from, nice for predinner drinks and a great way to meet new friends is for example the Casino-bar. Sheila plays the tunes on the piano. Another ideal place for before or after dinner drinks is the Club Bar, located right next to the dining room.
As I'm not a gambler, I did'nt made it to the Casino but it looks like a popular place to American fellow passengers. The ship also houses a fitness area equipped with nice work-out machines and Spa. The librabry is a must-see. Its decoration is very English and you feel like you're back in the 20's.
Until 5 pm the ship remain in Papeete which comes in handy for late arrivals. I had done a pre-booking through the internet from home with Tahiti Safari Explorers for a 4x4 half-day trip. After I confirmed my arrival in Papeete with them, they picked me up right at the pier. I had done 4x4 trips in Rarotonga and in Moorea before and found this one the best. Tahiti's interior is rich in flora with high waterfalls and valleys but also rich in mosquitoes. At one of the waterfalls, we could take a natural shower under the cascading cool water. In my opinion, a half day tour should be enough, it gives time to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon at Le Marche, a popular indoor market, great for souvenirs, black pearls or T-shirts. The market and the city centre is just a two-minute stroll away from the ship.
At 5 pm, Captain Mariano Manfuso, his Officers, Staff and Crew wishes everyone a enjoybale cruise. Minutes later, Papeete dissapears slowly untill it is gone behind the horizon. We will set a northeasterly course towards the Island of Huahine where the Tahitian Princess is expected to arrive at 8.00am tommorow.
Virtually untouched by any signs of tourism until very recently, Huahine, pronounced who-a-hee-nee by locals, remains a perfect refuge for those seeking peace and solitude. The slow-paced life on Huahine provides a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle yesterday in Papeete.
Huahine is actually made up of two separate islands, Huahine Nui or "Great Huahine" to the north and Huahine Iti ot "Little Huahine" to the south. The two halves are connected by a narrow bridge. Known as The Garden island for its lush foliage and verdant tropical landscapes, the island is aldo blessed with an abundance of long, white beaches and palm-fringed motus (little offshire islands). Fishing and agriculture, including vanilla, coffee, taro, breadfruit, mango, papaya, and bananas are the lifeblood of the island's economy.
Also today I had pre-booked a trip by e-mail from the convenience of my chair back in Belgium. Marc's picnic in the water Together with fellow Cruise Critic members we climbed aboard a traditional outrigger canoe which can hold twelve people + our funny Tahitian Captain. From the lagoon you can enjoy a splendid panoramic island view while we circled the island of Huahine Iti. The absolute highlight of the day is the Motu picnic in the water.
While the staff is preparing a barbeque, the Nautical Band plays the ukelele and drums to entertain the guests, enjoying complimentary big bottles of Hinano right in the shallow waters of the lagoon. Absolutely marvelous and unforgetable. Marc and his staff does a great job. Wishing the day never ended, it was finished way too quick. This was fun at its highest grade. 10/10 tour rating ! There were two other canoes from Marc's company which makes it a nice bunch of party people all together.
I have posted several pictures about this trip at the Huahine photogallery.
As the Tahitian Princess will continue today its southwesterly track towards the Island of Rarotonga, we will remaining out of sight of land throughout the day. Being a rather smaller ship with its 670 passengers, a number of people got seasick. Apart from this, the cruise staff seems to be worried about the Norwalk virus, also known as the "24 hour stomach bug". It has caused many outbreaks particularly in North America and Europe. Whilst the majority of these outbreaks occur ashore, a small number of cruise ships have been similarly affected.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed these outbreaks have largely been caused by this virus, now officialy classified as Norovirus.
Princess Cruises had installed sanitation dispensers at restaurant entrances and requested to all passengers to sanitize their hands before entering. Passengers who showed symptoms of being seasick, were called by the ship's doctor himself to held a questionairre. Anyone who reported seasick was kept an eye on as it could be signs of the Norovirus rather then seasickness.
Dramamine, wristbandages and ginger tablets easily founds its way to the sick passengers. Good for the boutique on board, sad for the affected people.
Anyway, tonight was the first formal night. People dressed up and had their formal picture taken by any of the proffesional photographers on board. Although 20 USD for a digital picture is'nt cheap, this business is still popular and runs well.
Not a bad word about the dining room with their attentfull staff and glorious food. However no midnight buffet was available on this ship. To myself, that does'nt bother because the food in the dining room was delicious, plentyfull, and I had late seating anyway.
I had taken only once breakfast inside the dining room which was the first day. There's a lot more variety available at the Panorama Buffet and how often can you enjoy breakfast with a mild seabreeze while overlooking the South Pacific Ocean. It truly has something in it. We enjoyed having our breakfast at the Panorama buffet which has outside tables and plenty space inside. There's a whole range of choice at the buffet which was also a great place to have lunch.
The only problem at breakfast were boiled eggs. All styles are cooked on the spot except from boiled eggs which are normally not available. I said normally because I was lucky to become a close friend with Chris, the Filipino chief-cook at the Panorama buffet of which he made an exception to me each time I requested boiled eggs. I noticed other people requested too but were kindly refused. That was the only service which could have been better. I don't think it is difficult to boil 4-minute eggs in advance and put them at the buffet. In addition to the large lunch buffet with again many food to choose from, a daily themed buffet was served at this time too. Japanese, Polynesian, Italian, .... I'm a Sushi lover but this buffet was the only one which rather dissapointed me. Perhaps because after 3 days I was used to being spoiled already.
A tradition at sea, afternoon tea was served too + the daily icecream bar which opened up in the afternoon. At the bistro, pizzas were available too during lunch which lasts untill 3.30pm !
Happy Easter from Rarotonga - Cook Islands. We were here at the beginning of our vacation (see Cook Islands review) and knew the good places for snorkeling. We had done the main activities such as the Motu picnic and the 4x4 that time, so today we were up for something different and decided to rent a Scootcar. That is a funny small three-wheeler with two smaller balancing wheels at the back. This 2-seater is a nice way to get around the island, specially today when most Cook Islanders are home for Easter and traffic is low.
I had become my Cook Island driver's license with succes in Aitutaki last week and could use it again today. That was if I had'nt lost it somewhere in our cabin. I might have dropped it accidentally in the waste bin as it looks no different to an ordinary note. Normally, I had to go again to the local Police station here in Raro to get myself another driver's license but the owner of Raro Rentals allowed me to hire the scootcar without it. After all it was Easter and the cops would be at one or another mass or with their relatives.
As there is'nt much traffic on the island during regular days, now on Easter Sunday, the island's single circular road seems to be entirely reservated for ourself and few other cruise ship passenger who rented a moped or something too. That was great for those people without a Cook Island license ! (note: I found my Cook Island license back again, once back home in Belgium)
The snorkeling in Rarotonga is at its best at Fruits of Rarotonga so that's where I drove Silly Willy (we named our funcar like that) to this place. Get a free map when you rent a vehicle and you'll fid this place somewhere halfway the circle when you departed somewhere near the wharf (or Avarua). Bunches of fishes can be spotted in the shallow waters of the lagoon. All kinds. About a dozen unidentified (I'm not a specialist in this field) blue sea creatures, 30 to 40 centimeters in length were teasing me all the time.
Each time I got my disposal underwater camera ready, they were gone. Great fun of which I could enjoy myself in this warm water for hours.
A bit further down the road is a long soft-sanded stretch of beach with 4 lovely motus in front of it. You can easily wade to one of it. Not much of snorkeling right here at Muri Beach but with the clear blue lagoon, there is a good range of water sports to suit all ages. You can choose from skimming the lagoon on a windsurfer, kayaking, lagoon boat trips, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, reef watching in a glass 'submarine', or just swimming and sunbathing.
Rarotonga has become a popular location for weddings and honeymoons. Wedding packages designed to suit each couple are available from a number of operators on the island. The golden beach of uninhabited Koromiri islet here in Muri Lagoon is the most popular location for weddings. Young coconuts saplings planted by each newly wed couple line the beach and are testimony to the islet's popularity.
There is a single hut with a bed and most remarkable thing I noticed was a english styled toilet placed in the open air without any form of wall or shield, but just between a few palm trees, facing the lagoon and Rarotonga across. Tell me where else you can sit on the toilet, overlooking a lagoon.
Together with Bob and Kathy we took our lunch at popular and famous Sails restaurant at Muri Beach. The motu is about 200 metres away - it apears to almost float in the lagoon. We could take our shoes off and walk right down eight steps and bury our toes in the powder white sand, or wade in the warm sea. This is Sails, surely one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific to dine ( or lunch in our case ).
Another full day at sea heading back north-east towards Raiatea, French Polynesia. Weather forecast today: partly cloudy but no showers to speak of. When I woke up this morning the sky had all colours but blue. It was the first day where rain was really pooring down from the sky. However in the afternoon it cleared up and there was the sun again. I had spent most of the day outside (under the cover) at the pool to do some people-watching while the world goes by at sea. There are daily activities organised by the cruise staff to keep you entertained but I'm not really the type of a guy who enjoys "Walk-a-mile", "Pathway to Yoga", "Name that Tune" or "Napkin folding". I really regret that Spice did'nt played longer as he's a real cool reggae and other Caribbean songs performer.
This night the All Star Passenger lip sync show was great fun at the Tahitian Lounge and was a good variety to the other nights at the disco where there was usually just myself and few other night owls.
Considered the most beautiful of all the Society Islands by Polynesian past and present, even outsiders admit that there is an undeniable mystique that hangs over Raiatea. The allied kingdoms of Polynesia journeyed by canoe, sometimes covering great distances, to hold tribal meetings and ceremonies at Marae Taputapuatea in Opoa on the south-east side of the island.
At one time, even human sacrifices were performed here. In 1969, thousands of human skulls were excavated from the site. Legend also has it that Oro, the God of war and fertility was born, atop Mount Temahani, on the northern end of Raiatea.
Raiatea is the second largest island in French Polynesia. Most of the island's population is centered around the busy port town of Uturoa, the second largest port in French Polynesia after Papeete. The rest of the island is quiet by comparison and only lightly populated.
If Raiatea is quiet, Tahaa is quieter still. Small pearl farms dot the warm, clear waters of Tahaa.
I had a pre-booking with Bruno's l'Ecxursion blueu (www.tahaa.net) together with Bob and Kathy from Canada, Kevin and Jill from New York, a French couple and some other Cruise Critic people. His outrigger was waiting for us prompt on time.
Bruno himself and Lanie, his great Polynesian assistant did everything to please us. After a short stop at a pearl- and vanilla farm, we headed further first to the Lagoonarium, later to a picturesque motu to enjoy a delicious fish barbeque and some beaching. It was here that I tried for the first time the famous Polynesian breadfruit served in a banana leave. My compliments goes to the cook of this very yummy barbeque.
The absolute highlight of the day had yet to come this afternoon at the Coral Gardens of Tahaa. Here we went drift-snorkeling in a bay, about two to three meters deep. Drift snorkeling is in fact easy. You just lay flat with your mask underwater and let yourself float forward with the current of the lagoon. Here at Coral Gardens, I was amazed to see such a lot of beautiful corals of different shapes, sizes and colors in really crystal clear waters populated with fishes of all kinds. Bunches of sea creatures, all kind of shapes and colors playing between a wonder world of magnificent corals in absolutely unbeatable visibility. It really is like swimming in a natural aquarium. Unforgetable and truly worth every cent. I had not enough disposal underwater camera's with me but included in your trip fare, Bruno is taking digital underwater pictures of which he will password-protect post on-line, so when you're back home, it is possible to download them from his website after he has sent you your personal access password.
His pictures are stunning. Away from the hordes of fellow cruise passengers, the 110 USD trip is great value, considering it is an entire day of fun in the sun with a great lunch and free digital images of your unforgetable day.
Tonight, we remain in dock at Raiatea until 6.00am tommorow morning when we will be heading towards Bora Bora.
What supposed to be a great tropical night at poolside literally fell in the water as mother nature was'nt with us. The Children of Raiatea show of 5.15pm at the Cabaret Lounge was just lovely to see this little cuties shaking their hips to the rythms at the age of 4. The next Polynesian Dance Show, programmed on pooldeck was cancelled because of the rain which just started when the first perfomer made is way on stage. Instead the whole organisation moved to the Tahitian Lounge, normally spacious enough during disco-nights but for this event it was a wrong choice. Way too small to acommodate all passengers. Right after the great performance of the local dancers, Le Maitre D'hotel Cianluigi Cisotto was creating a cascading Champagne waterfall where people could have their picture taken. We had big fun at the Tahitian Lounge untill the place closed it doors.
For many there are few places, if any, in the world whose natural beauty surpasses Bora Bora. Here nature painted a perfect masterpiece of deep green volcanic peaks egded by a ribbon of reef and magnificent white-sand beaches.
For years I had been dreaming to visit at least once in my life this tropical gem. Finally today, I could see for myself why so many had praised this island.
Approaching the lagoon of Bora Bora by cruise ship is truly spectacular. Go up on observation deck to witness the changing blue colors of the waters as you pass through Rade De Vaitape where the ship will go at anchor in Baie De Povai. The island is almost entirely encircled by a string of small motus where most of the luxurous resorts are nestled on palm-fringed beaches.
Since I had been planning this day in detail, I was hoping to do a flightseeing tour by helicopter overviewing this phenomenal island. Unfortunately I could not find three more participants to share the flight with.
Princess Cruises sold sunset cruises on a big catamaran for 99 USD a head. Still at home, I e-mailed "Taravana" to join them for a similar cruise for just 82 USD. I remember that I got a reply by them that I should call them once I had arrived on the island to confirm the trip. There would be no problem to join the catamaran sunset tour with them. Ok, I phoned Taravana Cruises and was answered that there were just the two of us so far, while the agreement was that we could join their boat together with hotel guests where the Taravana was in charge for. They would leave me a message to our stateroom before 5.00pm to confirm wether they had more people. We did'nt trusted Taravana Cruises while we were absolutely looking forward to do this sunset cruise in paradise on a sail catamaran.
Do not book this tour with Princess Cruises. You're always better off to wait till the arrival at port. In Vaitape, the small port where the ships tenders arrive, there are a handfull of local tour operators + a small visitors center. We found another catamaran who offered a sunset cruise for just 60 USD ! Of course we booked this right away. That was probably the best decision we had done today. We saw 2 huge catamarans departing packed with passengers from the Tahitian Princess who had paid 99 USD while we boarded our smaller sail catamaran. The boat was very romantic while we had to share the space on board with just another couple ( also cruise ship passengers ). This couple had exactly the same story as we had. They also had mailed Taravana, called them on arrival and got the same answer.
Now we had the exquisite luxury to be on board a very nice catamaran where nobody obstructed the magnificent views to take excellent pictures. What a deal for 60 USD. The owners of the boat, a couple who had also their son on board did everything to make us feel comfortable and during the actual sunset, we were offered a complimentary glass of champagne. A very romantic evening in paradise and a perfect way to end the first day in beautiful Bora Bora.
What makes Bora Bora so beautiful is the combination of sand-fringed motus sitting along the outer reef, the multi-hued lagoon, and the balsaltic tombstone known as Mount Otemanu towering over it all. Our second day here in Bora Bora, together with other Cruise Critic members who we had met on line at this cruise forum, we had chartered Shark's Boy outrigger for some fun in the famous BB lagoon. Spending 4 hours for just 55 USD with Shark's Boy is again a muc better deal to a similar trip offered on board the Tahitian Princess. Add a more personal touch with just 10 people on board and the reason of our choice is easily understood.
The first Shark's Boy action was refering to the company's name. A rope was tightened between two corals so that snorkelers could hold on to avoid being drifted towards the sharks because of the current.
Yes, we were into some shark feeding, not from the safety of the boat, but right in the safety of the lagoon ! Sounds a bit scary and hell yes it was. While floating on the water, fighting against the strong current we were holding the rope, Shark's Boy threw some meat overboard in front of us to attract the Black Tip Sharks. It really is some kind of an experience I have to admit.
It was after the feeding, back on board that Mr. Sharky showed his upper leg, marked by a huge shark's bite, a curve-shaped mark with deeper body marks where our lovely fish left his tees. His assistant was attacked in his foot as well. It is said that Black Tip sharks are safe for human.
After this new experience, we snorkeled a bit further to the amazing coral gardens of Bora Bora. Although not as impressive as those in Tahaa, we spotted a huge brown Moray eel partly hiding under a coral as they usually do. The eel with a thickness of about 12 centimeters sometimes showed us his sharp tees. Hundreds of other seacreatures can be seen at the coral gardens too. We were given meat to feed the fishes ourselves who pleasantly come to take it out of your hand.
I had always wondered why we did'nt attracked the sharks anymore with this meet, since they were out of sight, but just all the other more friendly looking inhabitants of the lagoon. There were stingrays and bunches of yellow, green, blue and other colorful fishes of all shapes again.
Everyone on our boat had yet another memorable day. We sailed across the island nearby luxury resorts as the Pearl Beach, Sofitel, Sheraton or the -still under construction- Ritz Carlton where once finished you can spend the night for just 3000 USD a day. No, I did'nt accidentaly add another zero.
No visit to Bora Bora would be completed without a visit to Bloody Mary's, a famous restaurant-bar. Outside next to the entrance is the wall of fame with the names of all the celebrities who were here before you came. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), Harrison Ford, Marlon Brando ( who owns an entire island to himself in Polynesia ) are just to name a few who tried the Bloody Mary's served here. They are the strongest I ever had, but delicious.
Our last day in paradise. We had stayed 4 nights on beautiful Moorea (see chapter 2 of this report) and had therefor enjoyed all major trips and activities this island had to offer.
Today, I was up into something different and was looking to rent a moped to explore the island at the convenience of just being by myself.
This morning, I had breakfast on the ouside deck of the cruise ship while it was anchored in Opunohu Bay. The view is truly unforgetbale and spectacular wherever you look. Having breakfast here are moments I wont forget easily.
Ok, I paid 50 dollars for a well running comfortable automatic motobike for the entire day. If you wanna hire one, be sure to go ashore with the first tender as there are just a few available right there at the pier. I had rented mine with Albert Tours, a well known company on Moorea who owns a number of different travel related companies.
You can circle the island of Moorea in about one hour and a half (without stops) but if you're limited on time, the most beautiful sights are on the north side of the island where the ship is at anchor.
Opunohu- and Cooks Bay are worth to be viewed from an upwinding paved road. Look for Belvedere look-out. I drove my way to the Sofitel first, that is on the north-east side of the island (take a free map). Just walk inside the resort and nobody seems to care that you come here as a visitor. The Sofitel is a great place to take a morning swim on the sand-bottomed beach. The resort offers also great photo possibilities of its overwater bungalows as you can see here.
Refreshed from the swim, my second stop was at the Sheraton, perhaps the best area for snorkeling right off the beach.
Again, nobody seems to bother my appearance at the property. Other notable stops I had made includes Les Tipaniers hotel, where I took my lunch overlooking the lagoon, the Hibiscus hotel, the Belvedere viewpoint plus a few photo stops during my ride around both bays. The best view is right above the Sofitel where you can see the amazing colors of Moorea lagoon.
A fun day again, different from all the watersport activities I had done the past three weeks. When you go ashore in Moorea there's a small open air market, selling T-shirts, Pareo's, handmade jewelry and other nick-nacks.
To finalize this great cruise, together with Cruise Critic members and other new friends, we enjoyed a great farewell party on deck this evening.